A couple of days ago I heard about an upcoming Los Angeles event recognizing the role of Iranian diplomat Abdol-Hossein Sardari (1914-1981) in saving Jewish lives during the Nazi occupation of France. The focus of the gathering will be the introduction of a new book about Sardari called In the Lion’s Shadow. The author, Dr. Fariborz Mokhtari, will be there to discuss his research. I haven’t read the book yet but have heard enough about Sardari to become curious about the details of how he deceived the Nazis into believing Iranian Jews were members of an Aryan convert sect called “Djuguten!” After all, the notorious Adolf Eichmann himself dismissed this claim as a trick to evade his gas chambers. In addition to being a life saver to thousands, Sardari should be ranked among the world’s top revisionists, inventing an entire people previously unknown to history and convincingly arguing for their existence. Fascinating chap!
Unlike the “Djuguten,” Sardari’s humanitarian effort is part of well-documented history made more important by the fact that it has a direct bearing on current affairs. As the hostility between the Iranian and Israeli governments comes to a boil, the citizens of each country are wondering if the conflict has any genuine cutural roots. To speak matter-of-factly, I am uncertain. On the one hand we have the evidence of relentless “death to Israel” chants reinforced by documented anti-Semitic episodes in Iran’s past, and on the other hand we have the relative tolerance of the Pahlavi period highlighted by the actions of dutiful civil servants like Sardari who made no distinctions between one Iranian citizen and another. With our history pointing to both options, it seems today’s Iranian has a choice.
But how do we exercise this choice in a visible way so that others, including our children, can know? If you make the choice that one Iranian is the same as another regardless of religion or race, then one way to display it is to show up at an event recognizing a brave and clever national hero who rescued thousands of Iranians from a dangerous situation in Nazi occupied Europe--and even saved some Europeans in the process. How many other heroes can you count in our history who single handedly went against a terrifying power to successfully rescue a huge number of Iranians? In mythical times Rostam rescued Bijan and Kay Kavus, but Sardari is a real-life Iranian hero from just a few decades ago. (Quiz: How many Jews did Cyrus rescue from captivity in Babylon?)
I hear that a lady who was seven years old when Sardari rescued her has been invited to the event. Iranian-Jewish journalist Homa Sarshar will be there along with Rav David Shofet the leading rabbi of the Iranian Jewish Community. Iranian Jewish researcher Faryar Nikbakht will do an interview with the author about In the Lion’s Shadow. A to-be-announced non-Jewish Iranian thinker will also be invited, but I am just as interested to see how many Iranian non-Jews in the Los Angeles area understand Sardari’s significance to our nation to show up on their own.
When: 6:30 PM, Monday April 23, 2012
Where: 142 S. Rexford Dr. Beverley Hills CA.
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